Wheelchair veterans learn adaptive rowing at White Rock Lake

Wheelchair vets sign
Dallas United Crew, White Rock Rowing and other local groups welcomed veterans in wheelchairs to a recent adaptive rowing exhibition. Photos by Danny Fulgencio

Dallas United Crew, the nonprofit that is building a boathouse on the east shore of White Rock Lake, is making good on a promise to serve wounded veterans and adaptive rowers. With help from other groups, DUC coordinated the recently held 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games’ (NVWG) rowing exhibition, which attracted approximately 70 military vets from around the country.

Paddle displays American pride at White Rock Lake.
Paddle displays American pride at White Rock Lake.

Before its approval by the city council in 2011, critics of the DUC’s forthcoming boathouse argued the club and its facilities would serve only wealthy crew team members and not benefit the greater community.

At a public meeting in 2011, DUC coach Jonathan Stevens promised to be something more.

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In addition to its core student team members from 20-plus Dallas area schools, DUC would focus on scholarship programs for lower-income kids, summer camps, learn-to-row days and partnering with programs for disabled veterans and kids, he said.

As architects drew boathouse plans, DUC members initiated talks with the Veterans Administration and Paralyzed Veterans of America to learn how they might create an inviting environment for veterans and adaptive rowers.

[Read a story about the healing powers of adaptive rowing and White Rock Lake here.]

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Dallas United Crew coach teaches injured vets adaptive rowing techniques.
Dallas United Crew coach teaches injured vets adaptive rowing techniques.

Meanwhile, Dallas was named the site of the 2015 NVWG, and, because of its outreach, DUC was invited to host the adaptive rowing event, which was the NVWG’s first.

Military vets practice adaptive rowing with Dallas United Crew.
Military vets practice adaptive rowing with Dallas United Crew.

DUC’s boathouse is still in the planning stages, so the NVWG event took place near the existing boathouse on the West side of White Rock Lake — many groups including the Veterans Administration, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, US Rowing, Row America Hamilton, White Rock Rowing and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department collaborated and saw a larger-than-expected turnout.

An adaptive rower demonstrates his skill at White Rock Lake.
An adaptive rower demonstrates his skill at White Rock Lake.

DUC provided specialists to assist those who had never tried adaptive rowing, which differs significantly from the able-bodied version, representative Donna Swanson notes.

Techniques vary depending on what part of the body is restricted.

“In adaptive rowing, everyone’s situation is unique,” Swanson explains. “There’s no one piece of equipment that serves everyone’s needs, so we have several experts here to help veterans find the right fit so they can have the best experience.”

McDonnell adds that DUC did everything possible to include a wide range of participants.

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“So for some that meant indoor rowing, others were able to get out on the barge and a few others of a higher skill level were able to get out in double and singles,” she says. “It was phenomenal. They loved it. I’ve never seen so many smiles on the faces of people coming off the water.”

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